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Why we are supporting Myung-hee and not Okonjo-Iweala as WTO DG – US

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The United States’ government has explained why it opposed the choice of Dr Ngozi- Okonjo-Iweala, as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The US opposition followed the consensus amongst the troika of WTO ambassadors that had earlier agreed that Okonjo-Iweala was the best candidate for the job.

US’ opposition pushed a decision on the next DG of the trade body to November 9, less than a week after the country’s presidential election.

In a statement by the Office of the United States Trade Representative on the selection of the next WTO DG late Wednesday, the US said its preferred candidate is South Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee. A decision, analysts describe as unprecedented for a government to reject its own citizen and pitch its support for a foreigner. Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a naturalised American citizen.

The country described Myung-hee as “a bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policymaker.”

“She has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation,” the statement said.

The US described this period as a “very difficult time for the WTO and international trade.”

It noted that the WTO is “badly in need of major reform” and “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”

“There have been no multilateral tariff negotiations in 25 years, the dispute settlement system has gotten out of control, and too few members fulfill basic transparency obligations,” the US said.

Okonjo-Iweala twice served as Nigeria’s finance minister under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and also under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.

She has experience working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chair at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).

Okonjo-Iweala campaigned as a WTO outsider and a reformer who told Bloomberg she plans to bring a “fresh set of eyes” to a deeply dysfunctional organisation.

“I’m known as a strong reformer,“ she told the medium in an interview. “My whole career at the World Bank has been involved with reforms in countries that have been beneficial.”

The final winner between the Nigerian and Myung-hee will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo who stepped down as WTO DG in August.

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